What type of men do women fantasize about? Bad boys usually top the list. The dark, brooding types have an air of mystery about them that we just have to unlock. Plus they’re dangerous. There is something alluring about risk, and in fiction it’s all the better because there are no consequences for the reader. We can fall in love with those abrasive, sexy guys in the safety of those pages (or film) and return to life as normal when we close the book, having vicariously experienced the thrill of adventure. The Bad Boy archetype is certainly more prominent in fiction than his counterpart, the Boy Scout.
Bones (Night Huntress series)
Bones is the dark, sexy vampire with his own agenda and a devilish approach to sex. As with many bad boys, there’s something appealing about him: hints of sweetness underneath that thick layer of bad ass. Would you want a real relationship with him? Probably not, unless you fancied pain. But you’re the reader, which makes jumping into bed with him safe and temporarily satisfying.
Damon Salvatore (Vampire Diaries)
Dark, sometimes evil, and witty vampire with piercing eyes. Oh yeah, he’s delicious. But then he can go and surprise us with moments of heroism, which makes us believe there is good in him, if only the right girl can draw it out.
Not to list only vampire bad boys (though that does seem to be the best or most popular form this archetype takes), let’s also mention:
Captain Mal Reynolds (Firefly)
This captain’s line of work is anything but legit most of the time, and he’s not afraid to throw a punch or fire off a few rounds. Yet he also has a sense of nobility and honor. Being an ex-soldier, he knows loyalty and nobody messes with his crew. He may have unscrupulous business practices, but he has limits on what he will and will not do. Dangerous, yet honorable. Now that’s a combination.
The Boy Scout, though apparently outnumbered, is not extinct in fiction. There’s also something alluring in undiluted devotion and sweet affection. The knight in shining armor persona has his place. In a world of darkness and betrayal, there is something safe and fulfilling in the ever faithful and dependable Boy Scout, the ideal man a woman can spend her whole life looking for in the real world and never find. Divorce rates are high, marriages are not expected to last a lifetime, and more and more children emerge from broken homes. Yes, we secretly love danger, but we also long for the stability we believe we’ll never have.
Marcus O’Malley (Dee Henderson’s The O’Malley series)
Really, all the men in Dee Henderson’s books are Boy Scouts. Marcus is a US marshal dedicating his life to protecting high profile figures. He’s loyal to his family and those he cares about, to the point that when he gets a call from any of his siblings, he will drop what he’s doing and rush over. How many women would love if their husbands put them above their work?
Leopold (Kate and Leopold)
Time traveling romances make use of the good boy persona more easily as honor and decorum is expected of men from the past. Leopold is a man of 1870, and though he might be considered a bit of a rogue in his time since he refuses to conform and marry a rich American, by today’s standards he is definitely a gentleman. He treats Kate with respect, and when he attempts to film a commercial for her, he refuses to compromise his standards by promoting a product he finds disgusting. Kate obviously falls for this chivalry, knowing she’ll never find equal in her own era.
Seeley Booth (Bones)
Here is a fine sample of a Boy Scout who is both tough and sexy. Booth follows the rules, doesn’t compromise his values, and has a sense of honor. He’d never cheat on you, never put his work above his loved ones, and never break your heart (intentionally). He is dependable.
So what about you? Do you prefer the Bad Boys or the Boy Scouts? Or do you find both meet a deep need at various times in your life? Who’s your favorite Bad Boy or Boy Scout character?